Welcome to Grub Street’s weekly survey of the most-talked-about, must-visit restaurants in New York City. The list below features spots both new and old ranked according to one important, ever-fluctuating (and admittedly subjective) metric: Who has the most buzz? Perhaps a famed chef has taken over the kitchen, or there’s a new dish you absolutely must order. Maybe the restaurant is just brand-new, or the critics are raving about it. Whatever the reasons, these are the hottest restaurants in New York right now.
1. Untitled (Last week: 2)
Famous, ridiculously accomplished chef? That’d be Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern fame. Danny Meyer’s celebrated version of hospitality? Check. Killer location? It’s in the brand-new Whitney. Lots of outdoor seating? Yes, indeed. Surprisingly gentle prices? Consider those a bonus.
2. Rosie’s (Off last week)
Here’s a big open restaurant with solid margaritas and reliable Mexican food to match. It’s not breaking the mold by any means, but it’s from Vicki Freeman and Marc Meyer, two people that definitely know how to run a busy, cheerful restaurant. A fresh go-to East Village option for the summer.
4. Empellón Cocina (7)
Alex Stupak’s renovations on his more-ambitious First Avenue restaurant are complete, and he’s even unveiled his “kitchen table,” a four-seat counter next to the kitchen where he’s serving a new tasting menu. It’s not cheap — $150 per person — but after taking part earlier this week, Grub can confirm it’s extremely impressive, more than worth the splurge on a special occasion. Head here to secure a reservation.
5. The Happiest Hour (Off last week)
Everyone’s favorite new after-work hangout is going strong in the West Village, and as of this week there’s a new, serious-minded cocktail bar called Slowly Shirley to go with it. Something for everyone, in other words.
6. Grand Army (4)
The excellent neighborhood oyster bar in Boerum Hill has been going strong since opening a few weeks ago, comfortably crowded on a nightly basis, no doubt owing to its combination of fresh, light seafood dishes and well-made cocktails to match.
7. Leyenda (New this week)
While we’re on the subject of promising new Brooklyn bars assembled by a roster of industry vets, here we have a Latin-leaning spot from Julie Reiner and Ivy Mix, with none other than Sue Torres in the kitchen, that opened earlier this week. How can you not be excited about a team like that?
8. Porchlight (10)
Leave it to Danny Meyer’s team to pioneer what you might call the half-martini lunch: The new midday menu features low-proof cocktails that you can enjoy with a little food and — in theory, anyway — get back to work without wandering into the office looking like a tipsy Mad Men wannabe. Well played.
Stay with us here: Yes, this Tex-Mex spot has been the subject of a string of brutal reviews, capped off with a Pete Wells goose-egg that rivals the critic’s famous Guy Fieri beatdown. The place seems to be a victim of its own hype — let’s be honest, a Tex-Mex bar would probably go unnoticed by the city’s critics under normal circumstances — even if the service and food really do leave something to be desired. That said, no owner is going to read those write-ups without taking a big step back and reevaluating the business as a whole. So who knows? Maybe there’s a chance this place will actually get better and fulfill the expectations that its many customers seem to have for it.
11. BEC (New this week)
It’s all breakfast sandwiches all the time at the Chelsea shop that opened this week. Grub still isn’t sure why the concept of slightly fancy breakfast sandwiches became so divisive, but here we are. Our suggestion would be to head over here at some point, split a sandwich or two with some friends, and decide for yourself where you stand in the great NYC BEC Debate of 2015.
12. Ramen Lab (9)
This very tiny Kenmare Street shop has started to bring in a rotating group of chefs. First up is a team from Tampa that’s serving some lightly Florida-fied riffs on ramen classics, while salsa music plays in the background.
14. Lupulo (11)
George Mendes’s new place is open, looking like a New York gastropub by way of Portugal, which is to say the food looks great. The large horseshoe-shaped bar is the restaurant’s centerpiece, and there are plenty of beverage choices to keep drinkers happy, but Mendes has heaped as much care on the menu as you’d expect, too
15. Shake Shack (the first one, in Madison Square Park) (Off last week)
Hey! The very first Shake Shack has been torn down and rebuilt from scratch — and it’s open once again, just in time for summer. Okay, yes, sure, it serves basically the same menu that’s available at the 8,700 other Shacks that have opened over the years, but this spot is still a New York institution and at least standing in line is generally pleasant when the weather’s nice.
16. Oiji (14)
If the phrase “Korean honey-butter craze” doesn’t mean much to you, well, you’re probably not alone. But you would nevertheless be well served by stopping into this East Village spot, ordering the $5 honey-butter chips (among other things) and seeing why an entire country went bonkers for the idea.
17. Virginia’s (13)
Hey, it’s a new casual, bistro-y spot in Alphabet City from a former Per Se sous-chef and Locanda Verde manager, which is some serious pedigree. The space looks suitably relaxed and the menu has enough twists to keep things interesting.
18. Dimes (16)
Dimes, the popular healthy-ish, California-esque Chinatown spot, has moved to a newer, bigger location, and, in addition to more space, the larger venue means the team can also add some new dishes to the menu.
19. Cafe Clover (19)
As the weather warms and thoughts of bathing-suit season come into focus, the healthy-eating angle at this very popular West Village spot is suddenly even more appealing than it may have been back in February. Even the cocktails feel virtuous, and that’s saying something.
20. La Gamelle (18)
In the space that formerly housed Diner, Mathieu Palombino has opened this full-on brasserie, with a menu that’s loaded up on classics like steak-frites, duck confit, snails in garlic butter, poulet rôti. And bow: There’s brunch.